The Massey-Peabody bracket reconciles politics and analytics, drawing on good analytics while acknowledging political reality. We begin with the traditional Massey-Peabody Power Rankings, a predictive analytics model built to identify the “best” teams. We then impose a few political constraints in order to also consider which teams are “most deserving”: 1) Every team starts the season equal (hence we use Massey-Peabody’s “hybrid” rankings, MPh, detailed below), 2) No more than two teams per conference can be seeded, and at least three conferences must be represented, 3) Priority among comparable teams goes to conference champions and head-to-head winners, and 4) Though win-loss records are notoriously unreliable indicators of team quality, even we recognize that a 2-loss team cannot be seeded above an undefeated power-conference team.
Massey-Peabody bracket if played Nov 22
1. Alabama, 9-1, SEC, MPh #3 (MP #1)
2. Ohio State, 9-1, Big 10, MPh #4 (MP #3)
3. Oregon, 9-1, PAC-12, MPh #5 (MP #4)
4. Baylor, 8-1, Big12, MPh #6 (MP #12)
Like we said, Alabama is the top seed. In fact our whole bracket holds steady this week, top to bottom. What’s different is that our hybrid rankings, which exclude pre-season expectations, are topped by two 2-loss teams – Wisconsin and Georgia. The Badgers and Bulldogs jumped a couple of spots on the strength of two of the most convincing wins of the season, over Nebraska and Auburn. But we can’t seed 2-loss teams while keeping an undefeated FSU on the sidelines, so we have to reach past them. Ohio State slides up to #2, Oregon #3 and Baylor #4, as they were last week.
Mississippi State and TCU are still very much in the conversation. A team not in the conversation is FSU. We have them #16 in the country when we set aside pre-season expectation (which the playoff committee exhorts its members to do). We think they’re the 5th best team in the country for betting purposes, but that’s mostly due to their #2 ranking in our pre-season rankings. We are delighted and surprised the committee has fought outcome bias well enough to put 1-loss Alabama and Oregon above them. Our data suggest that consideration should be extended to a few more teams.
Background: To be more politically palatable, we created a modified version of our rankings that does not use priors. In these rankings all teams start the season on equal footing and are never affected by our pre-season expectations for them. (Tip: This is a bad way to bet.) But we do use priors for strength-of-schedule considerations. Hence, while Marshall and Alabama begin the season equal, we know Alabama plays the tougher schedule. It’s a fudge. But it allows us to maintain some realism while staying “pure” in our evaluation of this season’s play. Below is our current “Hybrid” Top 15, along with the rankings from our full model (MP).